Monday, September 06, 2010

Postcards from the Fair #1

In remembering the dozens of trips to the fair in my lifetime, I must start with my childhood. Those early memories were dominated by the Midway, of course, for the freak shows were a true novelty, it was real in a way TV and other forms of media which lacked the immediacy of these tacky diversions were not. At the fair one could see real Siamese twins, a "fat" family, giants, alligator women and pop-eyed hucksters, showgirls(!), black showgirls(!!), and even a fading movie cowboy or two, all "performing" to small crowds of wide-eyed youngsters and their indulgent parents. The thing that tied it all together was the banner art for the various acts. Perfectly awful, yet undeniable in its tawdry appeal:



Jack Sigler

The idea of pain and suffering as an attraction was hardly new, much of my religious instruction was based on that, but here it was, presented as an entertainment (with a little titillation thrown in for good measure), even though it was really just part of a long tradition of circuses and morality plays. You just had to respond- whether in horror or fascination (or both.) This Art, outside of a few preserved examples, is long gone.

There were other childhood attractions, the livestock, along with their owners, created a world just as removed from my own as was the carny's. Those animals offered us a glimpse of grace, as did the young people who handled them:



This remains the same as it ever was, and remains just as beautiful.

The fair is also a little mini-history of Minnesota, each building and construction reflecting the times in which it was built. With almost nothing ever getting demolished, one can walk through the fair and simultaneously through the decades, with the grand buildings of the twenties and thirties still glorious:



Even their details bespoke a higher aesthetic sense:

By Professor Batty



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